: In the past year, teens in cities from Newark to Chicago to New Orleans have organized themselves into “student unions” to fight school closings, high-stakes testing and cuts to education funding. This weekend, more than 130 of the young activists will gather in Los Angeles for their first national conference. Sponsored by Students United for Public Education, the EmpowerED conference will feature workshops on speaking in public, using social media to organize, and injecting the student perspective into budget debates. “We want to create a space where students can learn from each other,” said Hannah Nguyen, a USC student who helped organize the event.
— The student union in Providence, R.I., which will send representatives to
the conference, has been among the most active groups nationally — and among
the most creative. To protest the state’s high-school graduation test, they
staged a sit-in at the education commissioner’s office and rallied in the
capitol rotunda dressed as lab rats. They even persuaded dozens of successful
mid-career professionals to take a shortened version of the test and publicly
release their scores. (Thirty out of 50 flunked.) Most recently, the Providence
Student Union held a “walk in our shoes” challenge to protest a district policy
of providing free transportation to high-school students only if they live more
than three miles from school. The union organized students, community leaders
and the media to join one girl on her 2.96-mile morning commute — on foot —
through icy streets.